The NFL and the American Football Coaches Association announced a new draft evaluation process for underclassmen which should allow highly touted college players to get better and more accurate information as to their draft prospects before making a final decision.
Though there are always extenuating circumstances -- say a player fails a drug test and can’t return to school or has exhausted their options to get a pass for grades and has no choice but to turn pro — seemingly every year there are a dozen or so high major prospects who go pro only to find themselves undrafted. Though this isn’t the option-to-return-to-school scenario coaches like Arkansas’ Bret Bielema has lobbied for, it should allow players like undrafted former Ohio State receiver Jalin Marshall to make sure they have more full information before electing to go pro.
“The more information our College Advisory Committee has, the better evaluations they can make for student-athletes who are at a critical juncture of their lives,” said NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent. “While there is no question that obtaining a college degree is a transformative experience for so many people in society and a goal to which we encourage everyone to aspire to, for those talented few individuals that have the ability to succeed in the NFL prior to exhausting their college football eligibility, this new agreement will ensure they have better information with which to make their decision. We appreciate the efforts of our partners at the AFCA in making this new agreement a reality.”
The specifics of the agreement are as follows:
-Each year, schools can nominate five worthy underclassmen for consideration for “enhanced contact” with NFL scouts/executives.
-If approved, those players get to go through the “Senior Pro Day” process just like draft declaring juniors or upperclassmen do.
-After this evaluation, the following season, NFL clubs will continue to be able to scout and inquire about these approved players as though they were seniors.
-If a school has more than five strongly-possible-to-be-drafted underclassmen — think like an Alabama or, oh I don’t know, Ohio State -- they’ll be able to apply for more than five players, subject to NFL verification of their draft worthiness.
These changes go into effect in Winter of 2017 for the 2018 NFL Draft.
While there are probably some tangential concerns about this being a slippery slope to other outside influences like agents touching base with these players prematurely, the upside of these players knowing exactly where they stand and ostensibly not making decisions that could be more rash in nature is nothing if not a positive.
Urban Meyer had lobbied for an underclassmen combine of sorts this past offseason.
Here’s hoping legitimate NFL prospects getting more insight into where they may be drafted influences better and more informed draft decisions moving forward.